When compared to other methods of smoking weed, are blunts bad for your health? Joints are the preferred method of smoking for health-conscious weed smokers. They’re safer because there is no tobacco content.
As one can imagine, there hasn’t been any formal research comparing the long-term effects of blunts versus other forms of cannabis consumption. However, based on the available information on cannabis and tobacco use, it’s possible to make an educated guess about the potential risks. While life is short and the occasional blunt is lovely, switching to a cannabis vape is a healthier indulgence.
People who smoke a combination of tobacco and marijuana, a common practice overseas for years, and increasingly popular here in the form of “blunts,” may be reacting to some unidentified mechanism that links the two drugs.
The effects of tobacco have been studied significantly more than those of cannabis. However, in the 5,000-year history of human cannabis consumption, there has yet to be a single recorded death from cannabis consumption.
To date, there are few reports on negative long-term effects of cannabis smoking. However, long-term effects cannot be entirely ruled out, either.
Smoking cannabis does cause microscopic damage to the tissue in the throat and lungs. Let’s face it, inhaling burning plant matter can be extremely hot and uncomfortable. In the short-term, smoking cannabis is known to cause bronchitis-like symptoms, including coughs, congestion, and mucus. However, these side effects typically subside when a person stops smoking cannabis.
Clinical trials of adults with cannabis use disorders suggest that “approximately 50% are current tobacco smokers,” according to the report, which was published in the journal Addiction, and authored by Arpana Agrawal and Michael T. Lynskey of Washington University School of Medicine, with Alan J. Budney of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. “As many cannabis users smoke a mixture of cannabis and tobacco or chase cannabis use with tobacco, and as conditioned cues associated with smoking both substances may trigger use of either substance,” the researchers conclude, “a simultaneous cessation approach with cannabis and tobacco may be most beneficial.”
A blunt is simply a marijuana cigar, with the wrapping paper made of tobacco and the majority of loose tobacco removed and replaced with marijuana. In Europe, smokers commonly mix the two substances together and roll the combination into a single joint, the precise ratio of cannabis and nicotine varying with the desires of the user. “There is accumulating evidence that some mechanisms linking cannabis and tobacco use are distinct from those contributing to co-occurring use of drugs in general,” the investigators say. Or, as psychiatry postdoc Erica Peters of Yale put it in a press release, “There’s something about tobacco use that seems to worsen marijuana use in some way.” The researchers believe that this “something” involved may be a genetic predisposition. In addition to an overall genetic proclivity for addiction, do dual smokers inherit a specific propensity for smoked substances? We don’t know—but evidence is weak and contradictory so far.
Studies of teens diagnosed with cannabis use disorder have shown that continued tobacco used is associated with a poor cannabis abstention rate. But there are fewer studies suggesting the reverse—that cigarette smokers fair poorly in quitting if they persist in cannabis use. No one really knows, and dual users will have to find out for themselves which categories seems to best suit them when it comes time to deal with quitting.
In a 2013 paper, Dr. Donald Tashkin, a professor of medicine at UCLA, explains that frequent cannabis use by itself doesn’t seem that harmful. Tashkin has been researching the effects of cannabis and tobacco smoke for three decades, and he has yet to find conclusive evidence that cannabis smoking causes significant harm. He explains,
[…] habitual use of marijuana alone does not appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function when assessed either cross-sectionally or longitudinally, except for possible increases in lung volumes and modest increases in airway resistance of unclear clinical significance.
Increased lung volume may actually be a beneficial side effect of smoking, while increases in airway resistance could be a sign of something less positive. As Tashkin mentions, there is still a lot to learn about cannabis and the lungs.
One area of particular interest is the lack of an association between cannabis and lung cancer. While tobacco causes 90% of lung cancer cases, cannabis just doesn’t seem to have the same effect.
Weed smoke is typically inhaled and held in the lungs briefly before being exhaled. In the case of blunts, that means you’re holding tobacco smoke in your lungs.
Cigarette smokers usually let the smoke out as soon as they’re done inhaling. Despite this, cigarette smoking is still the number one risk factor for lung cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 70 of the 7,000 chemicals produced by tobacco smoke are “known to cause cancer in people or animals.”
Even secondhand smoke from tobacco pipes and cigars can cause cancer. Cancer is only one of the many risks involved with smoking tobacco for prolonged periods. You can’t count on the healing properties of cannabis to protect you from the long-term effects of smoking tobacco.
Researchers found that adding tobacco to weed contributed to “cannabis dependency.”
Another study from 2009 claimed that tobacco increased “the vaporization efficiency of THC by as much as 45 percent under the conditions tested.” So people could be smoking blunts because they feel higher when they use blunts over joints.
Blunts have been popularized through artistic channels like rap music. However, even a few high-profile, weed-smoking rappers have sworn off of blunts because of the health concerns.
Wiz Khalifa once shut down someone for lighting a blunt up at his album listening party. “We don’t smoke no blunts in here,” he said. He’s made it clear on more than one occasion that he isn’t a fan.
He explained his reason for disliking blunts during his visit to the Shade 45 radio station.
“Blunts suck,” he said. “I hate blunts. It’s the tobacco. I smoke weed, not tobacco.” Wiz told DJ Whoo Kid during an interview. He prefers his weed in joints.
Wiz Khalifa isn’t the only celebrity rapper privy to the harms of frequent blunt use. After being declared GQ’s Bawse of the Year in 2012, Rick Ross advised their readers to “stop smoking blunts.” Instead, he suggests smoking out of papers like Khalifa does.
The truth is, we don’t really know for certain why many smokers prefer to consume tobacco and marijuana in combination. But we do know several reasons why it’s not a good idea. Many of the health-related harms are similar, and presumably cumulative: chronic bronchitis, wheezing, morning sputum, coughing—smokers know the drill. Another study cited by the authors found that dual smokers reported smoking as many cigarettes as those who only smoked tobacco. All of this can lead to “considerable elevation in odds of respiratory distress indicators and reduced lung functioning in those who used both.” However, there is no strong link at present between marijuana smoking and lung cancer.
Some researchers believe that receptor cross-talk allows cannabis to modify receptors for nicotine, or vice versa. Genes involved in drug metabolism might somehow predispose a subset of addicts to prefer smoking. But at present, there are no solid genetic or environmental influences consistent enough to account for a specific linkage between marijuana addiction and nicotine addiction, or a specific genetic proclivity for smoking as a means of drug administration.
If health is your main concern, consider switching from blunts to joints, or an even safer method of inhalation like vaporizing. Also, make sure you’re smoking or growing organic weed to ensure your habit is as safe as can be.